Wednesday, February 15, 2012


Before I went to Senegal I asked my dad to stop by the bank and tell them I would be traveling there, so when I used my ATM card there it wouldn’t put up a red flag and get shut down. They already knew I was in Mozambique and had authorized my card’s use there, so when he told them I would be going to Senegal they responded as if he was being strange: “well yeah, it’s authorized for all of Africa.” Please, pull up a map of Africa right now and find Senegal and Mozambique. I am not pretending that my African geography skills were great before I came here, I had to find Mozambique on a map once I learned I was coming. But Senegal and Maputo, Mozambique are farther apart than Boston and England—there is no reason “Africa” should be considered one entity.
Public shaming is a very normal part of culture here in Mozambique and also apparently in other parts of Africa, from talking to the other PCVs at boot camp. Sunday morning my plane was delayed so I was hanging out in the airport for a while by myself. All of the other boot camp people who had come to the airport that morning had already boarded the flight to Ethiopia, but I had noticed that the plane hadn’t left yet. Though I couldn’t understand the airport announcement repeating because it was in French, I could tell that they were calling for a remaining passenger. Then I heard a commotion behind me and looked to see one man walking defiantly toward the gate, with about six airport and airline staff walking beside, in front, and behind him scolding him for being late and making the other passengers wait on his behalf. When the people working at the gate realized what was happening they too joined in the yelling and public shaming of this man.
One thing I thought was interesting about Senegal was how similar the young male style is to here in Mozambique. The guido shirt, fairly tight pants, long shiny alligator skin shoes, big sunglasses, big watches and other large shiny accessories, and any other flavor of “gangster” they can work in. Kind of a strange blend between the European metro style and American urban hip-hop style.
The flight out of Dakar was about an hour delayed on Sunday and I began to get nervous, since I knew my layover in Johannesburg was only 1.5 hours. When we landed in Joburg I heard a guy say “can you please let me through? I am trying to make a connecting flight.” I asked where he was going and he was also going to Maputo. We (and a few other unlucky travelers) got off the plane and sprinted to immigration to have our passports checked. Then we sprinted to the counter (for some reason in Joburg you always have to check-in again for international flights) and got there at 6:50pm—our flight left at 7:10pm. “No sorry, the counter is closed. She already went home for the day,” we were told by a less-than-helpful attendant for another airline. It was EXTREMELY frustrating because the flight had not even left yet, but we were repeatedly told there was nothing to be done at this point. (In an aside, I don’t understand why the airline, which will remain unnamed, wouldn’t prefer to hold the flight for a few minutes and get the five of us who had been on this DC-Dakar-Johannesburg flight down to the plane, as opposed to paying for hotel rooms and giving 135 Rand per diem to all five of us as they did.) So I started talking to the guy from the plane—we end up not leaving the airport until 9:30pm (yes, a full three hours after we landed) so we had lots of time to get to know each other. And it turns out we have a few friends in common, from Mozambique (he lived up north in Mozambique the last two years and knows other PCVs from my training group) to people from Bowdoin college, my tiny little college of 1,700 students in Maine. Such a small world!

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